The Week in Review #9: From Dead-End Job to Uber Billionaire

I picked up a pretty awesome book this weekend after reading through Ryan Holidays’ book “The Obstacle is the way“, it was Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. I have thoroughly enjoyed it so far and would definitely recommend it, especially to entrepreneurs reading this blog. The article of the week was an old one which resurfaced this week about the co-founder of Uber and how he hustled his way to join the company in it’s early days.

From Dead-End Job to Uber Billionaire: Meet Ryan Graves The biggest takeaway is that we have to choose ourselves if we want to truly want to live our life. We do this by using our skills to solve large problems that exist in the world today. It is at that intersection that we will find out purpose and true calling.

Ways to think about market size Great article on how think about the size of the market your business is planning to operate in. The best quote from the article was “Everyone likes to quotes the Wayne Gretzy line that he was skating to where the puck was going to be, not where it was, but Apple and Google didn’t do that – they changed what the game was.”

The Most Important Equations in Business (Part 1): Customer Acquisition How much does it cost a business to acquire a customer and how much money does the business make on that customer; these are the two questions that drive your business. This article goes into great length talking about these two questions with lots of great examples.

How Successful Remote Teams Evaluate Employees The concept of a physical office is slowly fading into the past. Companies are looking for ways on how to attract and recruit talent from all around the world today. This articles discusses strategies of how companies are addressing this shift.

7 Awesome Talent / Recruitment Hacks This is definitely a slightly technical post on how to recruit developers. I found these hacks to be very innovative and highlights how recruiting and sourcing is rapidly changing.

How I launched the #2 most upvoted product of all time on Product Hunt Product Hunt is one of the websites that I visit daily. It provides a dose of inspiration with all the awesome products that are launched everyday. This post provides a detailed analysis on how one founder really worked hard to get his startup to the top of the list. The big takeaway, have a clear goal, work hard and good things will happen.

What’s your GMT – The next goal, milestone and task? In a world where we are drowning in todo lists and a never ending stream of decisions to make, this article talks about a great framework to make sense of it all. By focusing our efforts on the clear next steps, we reduce noise and increase our ability to focus & get things done.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

Being Productive vs Being Busy

In a world where we are constantly “connected” and always have something to do, we can very easily confuse being productive vs being busy. Like most vices, short term impacts are often never felt and we only get to see how far behind we are on our ‘actual’ tasks after a couple of weeks or sometimes even months. This is a problem faced by almost everyone at some point in life. In fact, statistics show that more than 77% of people are disengaged with the work they do every day. I received a piece of advice that has helped me greatly in overcoming this problem, it was, to systematically break down my goals into achievable chunks. Listed below are some steps to get started:

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Overcoming the Execution Gap

With the new year in full swing, many of us may have set goals towards what we aspire to achieve in 2013. However, there is a big difference between setting goals and achieving them. Essentially the execution gap in the middle is where many fall. In 2013 you may want to become healthier, boost your business forward or write the book that you have always wanted to. These are good goals to work towards but in order to be truly committed about this we need to over come the execution gap.

Here are three steps to get you started:

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Is Making Money the Ultimate Validation?

Recently I had an interesting conversation with someone who took the stance that, making money was the only sign that you are creating any value in the world. From his perspective making something that had perceived monetary value meant that you had created something worth while. On a very superficial level, I believe this argument has some basis, however, it has some very serious flaws. While I agree that making money does prove that your work has some value and the amounts of monetary exchange is an indicator of this, I do believe that this line of thought is extremely myopic and is a blinkered reflection of the workings in the industrial era where you did a certain job solely for and in exchange for compensation.

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Looking Back at 2012

As I sit down to write this post I really can’t believe that 2012 is over. These last couple of years, time seems to be accelerating at a quantum pace where it is becoming difficult to keep track of all the things which again seem to be taking place almost all at once! I remember quite vividly this year starting off with us closing one of our biggest deals with British American Tobacco, we have been fortunate to have just built our pace from there. For this review I am going to take a different approach and document all that went well and the areas which need improvement in the coming year.

The Things That Worked out Well:

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Building an Advisory Board

Since becoming part of the Founder Institute I have been really fortunate to have met and interacted with some of the best, smartest and knowledgable entrepreneurs I have ever had the good fortune to meet. We have been advised to put together a formal advisory board to assist us in our journey to reach product/market fit. I have always been a big fan of having mentors, mentors are vital to give advice and help keep your business from making expensive and avoidable mistakes. Building an advisory board however, needs to be given a lot of thought and is not another line item on your to-do list. Some advice I am following and steps I am taking are:

1. Recruit advisors with specific objectives: You need to research and spend a considerable amount of time up front to determine critical objectives that need achieving early in your venture. To accelerate reaching these milestones, search for advisors who have specific domain knowledge in specific areas and who will act as catalysts. This provides the advisor with a specific area to concentrate on and will be mutually beneficial.

2. Compensation: Advisors are usually given anywhere between 0.25% to 5% equity stakes depending on their involvement and stature. On the flip side, some advisors may not be interested in equity and a prior agreement about a small settlement in cash or a deferred payment plan can be established. Some advisors do not expect anything and for such a situation, you should be the one picking up the cheque during meals and showing gestures of gratitude for the time the advisor spends with you.

3. Small Groups: It is best to keep your roster of advisors limited to a group of 3. There are several reasons for this; for example, when organizing a communal meeting it is usually challenging to manage a larger size group due to calendar conflicts etc. Too many advisors could result in “too much advice” which could in turn paralyze you, instead of helping you to move forward.

4. Legal Agreements: When taking someone on as a formal advisor, it is best to get your law firm to draft an agreement. It is suggested that formal advisory role positions be kept to a maximum of 2 years, after which they could be renewed. This gives the entrepreneur a way out if things are not working well. If equity is involved, be sure to vest it over the period of the agreement and lastly, if required, get the advisor to sign an NDA if you think he/she may be interacting with other companies where there might be a conflict of interest.

Will keep everyone updated on how I go about structuring this process, will also post the specifics when completed.

Clearly Define Success

It is the first week of January. It is a time when we all have this blank slate in front of us, which is 2011. Our actions in this first month will however, have a major impact on what we end up achieving this year. I believe that New year resolutions are personal promises, made to ourselves, and can have long term benefits. During this period I also write down very specific goals of what success should look like this year in the businesses that I run.

We all hope to double our revenue growth, increase profit margins or get outside investment to accelerate our growth path. However, what you need to do is be realistic about where you are and what you can actually achieve this year. This can only happen by taking stock of where you are first. How did you do in 2010? What were your sales figures? What are your profit margins at? How many customers did you bring on and how many did you lose? Depending on your business, take key metrics and set specific and realistic goals that you will work towards in 2011.

Create a roadmap for 2011, this will help towards achieving a much higher probability of making meaningful strides towards growing your business to where you want it to go. This exercise beats pulling random numbers and lofty goals without taking into account whether they are achievable or not. Wishing all my readers the best of success in the new year!